Technology Enhanced Learning at Sussex

Reflective learning journals

Assessing reflective practice using online journals with Mahara, the University of Sussex e-portfolio system.

Mahara is an open-source tool which allows students to create online portfolios, and is now in use across a number of academic schools. We spoke to Robin Banerjee, Professor of Developmental Psychology, to find out how he and his students have been using Mahara.

What was the learning or teaching issue that prompted this innovation?

I had been using a portfolio assessment on this module previously, and used Google Sites the previous year. The prospect of having a system linked with our virtual learning environment and particularly the university’s online submission process was very welcome.

What impact did this have on the student experience?

Online portfolios enable students to incorporate multimedia artefacts including text, video and audio recordings, images, files, embedded web content or journal entries and allow students to display their work in a personalised way.

Overall, I found the experience to be positive. I deliberately kept the portfolio structure simple (a reflective learning journal, and two pages with more substantive pieces of writing), and that probably helped. The majority of students managed the system well, and I found Mahara to be generally effective.
Probably the most distinctive element of the portfolio assignment used on my module is the reflective learning journal, and this was received very favourably by students. This enhanced their engagement throughout the module and was a great way for me to interact with students during the term, above and beyond the in-person workshops.

How will the outcomes influence your future practice?

Mahara allows tutors to provide students with a set template to build their portfolio from, to encourage a consistency in the presentation format and guidance on which tools to use within the portfolio for their assessment. Alternatively, students are given the flexibility to create a portfolio from scratch using all of the available tools in Mahara.

Next year, I would like to be more adventurous in allowing students to be more creative in shaping their portfolios.

Further information



Department: Psychology

Date: 2016 - 17

Awards & Honours

  • Excellence in Teaching Award Winner 2016 - outstanding or innovative assessment and feedback
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